Great Recession Leaves Recent Grads Feeling Unprepared and Pessimistic: The Sputtering Economy Has Left Recent College Graduates Doubtful about Future Financial and Career Success

By Brotherton, Phaedra | Talent Development, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Great Recession Leaves Recent Grads Feeling Unprepared and Pessimistic: The Sputtering Economy Has Left Recent College Graduates Doubtful about Future Financial and Career Success


Brotherton, Phaedra, Talent Development


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With graduation behind them, most new professionals look forward to starting their careers on an optimistic note. Not so for those who graduated during the Great Recession, according to Rutgers University's Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.

"There is a large number of talented people who are underemployed or unemployed," notes Carl Van Horn, director of the Heldrich Center and co-author of the study Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy. "Many of them are working part-time jobs, and many are in positions that don't require a college degree. There is a broad and deep pool [of people] who graduated during this period and are looking for a better full-time job."

The study found that those who landed positions during the recession in 2009 and 2010 found jobs that paid about 10 percent less than those of prerecession graduates (2006 and 2007). The representative sample was made up of 571 college graduates who graduated between 2006 and 2010.

Although 52 percent took jobs that require a four-year degree, 40 percent took positions that did not, and 8 percent weren't sure if their jobs required a college degree. In addition, men significantly out-earned women in their first jobs out of school, with median for men at $33,150 versus $28,000 for women.

Recent graduates who did find jobs somewhat related to their majors received a higher salary (average $35,000) compared to those who did not (average $25,000). The picture was brightest for those who had internships during their schooling. They were more likely to land a job related to their major and earned roughly 20 percent more than those who did not have an internship.

The number working in an unrelated field is higher for students who graduated during the recession (2009 and 2010), at 43 percent compared to just 22 percent for prerecession (2006 and 2007) graduates. …

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